The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, June 29, 2009

Elephant-man in the living room

I don't know if anyone, or anything, could have saved Micheal Jackson. But the willingness of millions of people to lie to themselves and each other about the glaring, obvious dysfunction is exactly the kind of "elephant in the living room" thinking that affects our health, relationships, racial relations, educational system and more. My plea is to ask yourself where do you have a Micheal in your life--your behaviors, or those of people close to you. What won't you look at, for fear of losing love? Fear of being rejected from your core group? Honesty is hard. Living with the results of lying is even harder.

##

Homicide statistics are driven by both economic and emotional factors. My suspicion: Universal Health care will lead to re-examination of drug laws, leading to decriminalization, removing profit motive from drug smuggling. How many homicides are related to warring drug gangs?

How many related to people who feel that there is no hope, who feel no connection to their surrounding society? Ever talked to someone who watched their mother, father, or siblings die sick and poor in absolute squalor? That's how you build a sociopath--give them no sense that the world cares about them. How much developmental stilting is caused by inadequate prenatal or childhood care? A Universal Health care system would include psychological counseling--anger management, stress reduction. All of these things have positive effects on health, but also the ability to live with one another.

Yes, I absolutely agree that inner-city violence is exacerbated by absent fathers and immature mothers, by the flight of responsible role-models to better environments, but also by a sense that there is no way out, no one who cares, that the society around them hates them and wants them dead. I see the evolution of culture as moving slowly and inexorably from tiny groups (families) to tribes, to villages and cities and nations and finally to a world grid. That our prison statistics are a symptom of a gigantic portion of the population feeling disenfranchised and as if there is no positive outlet of their energies...as well as disproportionate prison sentences for the poor and minority population, and related to an insane drug policy. I'd be willing to let teetotalers set social policy for both alcohol AND drugs before I'd trust people who drink set policy for those who prefer something else. It's just nuts.

#

I would think that Universal Education (although not necessarily college...trade schools can work just fine for many people) and Universal Health care (with commercial riders available for those who want and can afford extraordinary benefits) are investments in the future of our country, our children, our world. And I think that they are cheap in comparison with the alternative...in the case of UHC, we currentlynseem to spend more to get less. Which means that the money is there...the question is how to shift that money from the private to a public system. Seems to me that the best bet is a public option, where people can voluntarily shift their current payments to a growing city, state, or Federal pool. The greater the service per dollar, the more people will enroll. Competition is a good thing, right? So let's see if the profit motive really makes for better health care. Seems to me that that's what Insurance companies are worried about: they've had a gigantic profit machine that is going to shrink, but not disappear. And they're fighting for their lives. I'm fighting for yours, and mine. And our children's.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

"My suspicion: Universal Health care will lead to re-examination of drug laws, leading to decriminalization, removing profit motive from drug smuggling."

Steve,

I saw no evidence of this in the UK when I lived there. Canada and Holland have tolerated cannabis, but not the main drugs that most feed narco-violence. If adopting Universal Health has caused any country to decriminalized the drugs that give the cartels their great profits, I suspect that they are very much the exception to the rule. Are there examples of national governments that have actually done this?

Marco

Marty S said...

Steve: You compare universal health care to the universal education, but universal education fails many. My grandson had to be moved to private school because it was failing him. All the emphasis was on everybody is the same with some special programs for those behind. There was no money and no interest in providing a program for a child who was doing fourth grade arithmetic at age four. Boredom made him hate school. As for the farce of a public option to health care let's look at my situation. I have a health care plan that I am happy with. It is provided by my company with contributions from both of us. In a little over a year I will become eligible for medicare. When I become eligible for medicare my company will no longer cover me. Their benefit plan requires you to leave the company's plan and use the public plan. I'll bet you ten bucks that if universal health care passes that government health care is all anyone will have.

suzanne said...

universal health care
does not necessarily mean
only one provider, Marty
it merans some kind of coverage
for everyone

one provider
and that the government
is the most unlikely of
outcomes, given Congress
and all the rest

Pagan Topologist said...

I became eligible for Medicare three months ago. My employer said that I should register, but that I will never, need to use it while I am working, and will never need a "Medicare Supplement" even after I retire, as they will pay for such.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Portugal has legalized all the major drugs. It seems to be working well for them, but I have no idea what convinced them to do it.

The depression ended Prohibition. It's possible that if the economic crisis is bad enough, the US will decide it can't afford the war on drugs.

Or possibly it'll just take a long slow grind of evidence and argument. In the seventies, people laughed at the idea of drug legalization. Later, they got angry, and some of them still do. More recently, there have been more and more people involved in the war on drugs who've said it was just destructive.

Maybe one more generation. It's hard work to overcome the combination of fear, self-righteousness, and financial interests.

****

I've assumed that a crucial part of maintaining emotional problems is habitual muscle tension. Considering the way Michael Jackson danced, where was he hiding it? Is my initial premise wrong? Or my eye isn't good enough to see it in MJ's case? Or some artists can drop their emotional stuckness when they're performing?

Christian M. Howell said...

Inner city violence is caused by knuckleheads doing the same thing they say white people do to them.

Holding them back, making them feel like they have where to turn., etc. I say the same thing you say about Michael. It's everyone's job, whether from a broken home or a mansion. Human morality is drawn from the external world and there is good as well as bad to emulate.

Universal Health care is really the least of our problems. We need a better system of "growing fitness." Our kids just sit around getting fat. They aren't even learning while sitting around.

Anytime an advanced society has the "Sambots" there is a much deeper underlying problem that will continue to make people sick, they just will be able to spend more time at the doctor's.

Professor Timonin said...

I'm all for universal education - and I agree that community college/trade schools are entirely sufficient for most.

Scott Masterton said...

"Competition is a good thing, right?"

I think it is Steve, but the government has a huge advantage: it doesn't have to turn a profit. It can lose and lose and lose (which it always does). It can demand and get compliance from doctors, hospitals and pharmacies by passing laws rather than negotiating. There is a lot of complaining that Walmart destroys small business because it's so big and has such buying power (true). Government is "Walmart" X 10, but with a monopoly on force. It doesn't have to play by the rules because it makes the rules; it can change them arbitrarily and/or exempt itself from the rules it applies to others.

Either we have Universal healthcare or not. The idea that we're going to try some mixture of free market and socialized medicine is a red herring... a way for the proverbial camel to get his probiscus under the tent flap. I'd rather the government just be honest and either do it or not. It insults my intelligence to play this political game. Either Unversal healthcare should be done or it shouldn't be done. Personally I have no idea how we are going to pay for it.

Peace,
Scott.

Brother OMi said...

I help alot of folks when they get out of prison. I have written many recommendation letters for pardons. the crazy thing is that most people who get out of jail have NO CLUE that there are ways out of that cycle.

I run into people on the daily who have never imagined LEAVING the confines of their city. It is mind boggling to learn that there are folks who have no clue and it's really no fault of their own.

I personally think that we all contribute to these problems. We like to assume that "those problems" and "those people" stay in "that part" of the city or town.

People are shocked when I tell them that we purchased a home in the inner city. They often question our motives. So even people who are supposed to know better, DON'T.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Anyone know about a program called Cease Fire? If it's as good as it sounds in the article, it cuts way back on the murder rate by talking to people in bad neighborhoods about defuse potentially violent disputes.

BC Monkey said...

The Portugal example is an interesting one. I hadn't heard that they had decriminalized. Quickest link to an examination of the issue is here. http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080

A few things from the abstract that I'd comment on...

On July 1, 2001, a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were "decriminalized," not "legalized." Thus, drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

Portugal isn't exactly what Steve is talking about, as the actual transportation and sale of drugs remains illegal- thus smuggling would continue to be an issue. The profit would still be there.

Assuming for a moment, full legalization beyond what Portugal offers, do you really want to put the minds behind tobacco advertising into the position where they could promote the use of hard drugs as a lifestyle choice?

I get the prohibition analogy and I don't think it applies evenly. I draw a difference between something that the vast majority of the population enjoys in moderation and something as destructive as hard drugs. Does the phrase "responsible cocaine use" or "Responsible heroin use" sound plausible?

Remember to enjoy Rothman's Super 8 Highball responsibly."

Anonymous said...

"do you really want to put the minds behind tobacco advertising into the position where they could promote the use of hard drugs as a lifestyle choice?"

Doubtless big tobacco would indeed move in on hard drugs and purvey yet more suffering and death. However, I still think legalization is preferable to narcotics prohibition. If a junkie buys heroin from Marlboro, she harms only herself. Currently, the addict's plight is merely the tip of a vast iceberg of social wreckage. Joan-Q junkie finances gang mayhem and police corruption, which in turn supports terrorism, the Mob and high-level institutional rot. Further, legalization might also HELP Joan, who risks overdosing, ingesting lethal "additives" or HIV with every shot. Marlboro Heroin would truly be a "controlled" substance, with the content, strength and effects of every dose meticulously regulated. I suspect Marlboro et al might even decide that less debilitating versions of "hard" drugs offer the most potential profit. Perhaps street-type heroin might be replaced by less debilitating versions with potencies comparable to caffeine and less harmful means of ingestion. Coca Cola did originally contain cocaine.

Ethiopian_Infidel

BC Monkey said...

Ethiopian,

If an addict is willing to steal for their fix, I'm not seeing how packaging it and possibly making it more affordable gets rid of that problem.

An addict is no one who practices self-control and discretion wrt their habit. If you decrease the price of the behaviour, you will get more of it, not less.

Any reduction in how much the addict spends per dose has to be weighted against how many more times they will indulge in the habit and what the net effect will be. If instead of 2 doses a day, the addict is able to afford 5 or more, is it not likely that we'd see more deaths by overdose and more critical medical cases driving up the costs of medicare?

Anonymous said...

"If you decrease the price of the behavior, you will get more of it, not less."

Even if legalization breeds thousands of new junkies and fosters more ruinous indulgence of their "habits", the damage will still be confined to the addicts and their acquaintances. Prohibition saturates society with it instead! Further, I speculate Corporate America may find keeping addicts alive more profitable than killing them. Just as the most successful viruses mutate from virulence to chronic semi-debilitating infections like colds, "hard" drug addiction corporate-style may see the likes of Heroin and Meth scaled down till ingesting these is comparable to smoking cigarettes: a harmless flirtation for some, a protracted death for many, and a bad habit for the majority.

Ethiopian_Infidel

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I'm not convinced that addicts only harm themselves-- I get the impression that heavy drug use produces a sort of emotional incompetence or inability to connect which is inconsistent with being a good parent.

It's just that I believe drug prohibition doesn't do much to prevent addiction/excessive use and has tremendously bad side effects.

It's interesting that the amount of restriction on smoking and the high taxation on cigarettes hasn't produced the ill effects of prohibition.

Professor Timonin said...

Possible line of thinking - you've forgotten a Universal which might work to subsume both Universal Health Care and Universal Education - Universal Military Training. There was a push for this back in the 40's, as WWII was winding down - Eisenhower was a big supporter. If all able bodied young folks (regardless of gender) are required, between 18 and 24, to do some sort of public service (military training, or some non-military type training, EMT, volunteer fire-fighter, that sort of thing), you could then tie Universal Health Care to that - the same insurance which is available to service-people - and also qualify the whole country, eventually, for GI Bill education.

Steven Barnes said...

Public education fails many...but then anything fails a percentage of those participating. I and most of the people I know did fine with a public school education. The system can work. And should be improved.
##
I believe that there are still health insurance companies in countries with universal health care--generally "riders". But this concern brings up an important point: those who oppose it are in the class of people who already have good health care. Fine. I see nothing wrong with arguing for your class.
##
I support legalization of drugs less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. I don't support making heroin a consumer product for profit. I like the idea of plain-wrapped generics, no advertising. All profits go into drug education and rehab programs.

Steven Barnes said...

Public education fails many...but then anything fails a percentage of those participating. I and most of the people I know did fine with a public school education. The system can work. And should be improved.
##
I believe that there are still health insurance companies in countries with universal health care--generally "riders". But this concern brings up an important point: those who oppose it are in the class of people who already have good health care. Fine. I see nothing wrong with arguing for your class.
##
I support legalization of drugs less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. I don't support making heroin a consumer product for profit. I like the idea of plain-wrapped generics, no advertising. All profits go into drug education and rehab programs.

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Tom Perkins said...

"A Universal Health care system would include psychological counseling--anger management, stress reduction."

Why would that be necessarily so?

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